The preference page allows setting infrequently changed settings.
Sky Flat Settings
Email Settings (CCDAutoPilot Professional Feature)
Control File (CCDAutoPilot Professional Feature)
A key aspect of planning is the estimation of various event timings that occur during the course of an imaging session. These events are shown above. One can either enter estimates or let CCDAutoPilot develop them using its internal learning algorithm. The more sessions are run, the more accurate the estimates become. At the end of each run, the actual event history is compared with the estimates and the values are adjusted. Any differences are shown in the adjust box. As additional sessions are run, the magnitude of this adjust box decreases. When a run estimation is made, these event times are used to make the session estimated times more accurate.
The user can use the Zero Estimates button to reset all estimates to 0 and start the learning process again from scratch. The set estimates can be used to enter an estimate where none exists or to enter a revised value. In the above screen capture, the 3x3 download time is 0 because none have been taken. One could enter a reasonable 7 sec., based on the 1x1 and 2x2 download time if 3x3 binning were planned. Hit Set Estimates and that 7 sec. estimate would be refined in future sessions.
In general, these settings are best made automatically.
In order for PinPoint to successfully plate solve, the catalog type, Expansion and Path to the catalog must be properly entered. Depending on your catalog used, select the Catalog and use the path button to navigate to the corresponding location of that catalog. Expansion should be left at 0.0, unless your telescope pointing is considerably off and/or your FV is small. In that case, increasing the Expansion to higher values will increase the search radius at the expense of increased plate solve time.
Note that you can not use the stellar catalogs from TheSky for PinPoint. TheSky's stellar catalogs are compiled in a proprietary manner for performance reasons. You need to obtain standard stellar catalogs either via download of on CD's.
Sky Flat Settings
Sky flats are obtained automatically at dusk and dawn.
Tracking On/Tracking Off: When taking flats at twilight, especially at dawn, it is possible to get some bright stars in the flats. These stars should be easily removable in the flat stacking (combining) process. Some users prefer to have star trails for their combining. In this case, tracking off will reduce the intensity of the stars at the expense of trails. Tracking on keeps the stars relatively small but of higher intensity. When tracking is on, a 6 arc-min. enhanced is automatically applied to each sky flat, insuring any stars to not line up from one flat to another. Statistical stacking techniques such as various sigma reject algorithms better remove small, intense stars on dithered images. If using these techniques, Tracking On is recommended.
Exposure Limits: The minimum exposure time should be chosen such that the moving shutter doesn't impact the flat. 2 seconds or greater is a good starting point. Since sky flats are being taken at variable exposures, it is desirable to keep the maximum exposure short so that dark current doesn't increase to the point were actual darks are required and a simple bias subtraction will remove any pattern noise from the sensor. Depending on the sensor 30 - 60 seconds is a recommended maximum.
Null Point: As long as these fields are blank, CCDAutoPilot will automatically determine them. If you have a specific need to set one or the other, the one set will be used and the other will be determined by the program. If both are set, both will be used.
Sun Altitude: These settings define the solar altitude at which measurements of sky brightness begin to meet your specified target ADU level. You can either leave them where they are or you can fine-tune them, based on the solar altitude recorded in the log for successfully acquired sky flats. In order to prevent dawn flats to continue to try in situations where a dome is closed independently of CCDAP, dawn flats will abort if the sun has risen 10 degrees plus the dusk sun altitude setting. This will allow the rest of the session to complete normally even if the dawn flats are unsuccessful with a closed dome.
Email Settings (CCDAutoPilot Professional Feature)
Email notification is possible of significant events during the course of a session. In concert with the Control File and the utility window on the Options page, you can receive an email notification of a number of events. Enter an email address to which you want the notifications sent. TIP: If you enter the email address for your cell phone's SMS text message, you can receive a text message. You can enter more than one email address as long as they are separated by a comma ',' but no spaces or any other punctuation. You can test these settings using the Email test button on the Tools page.
In order to receive these notification, you must have a valid email account established on the observatory's computer and CCDAutoPilot must be properly configured.
As a minimum, you will have to enter the SMTP server, which is the same that is entered in your email client's account setup. If you need to enter a port other than the default standard which is port 25, enter the smtp server name followed by a colon ':', followed by the port name. For example: smtp.mail.net for a standard port and smtp.mail.net:505 for a non-standard port 505. If your server requires you to use Secure Sockets Layer, check the SSL box. CCDAutoPilot will use the default credentials (UserName and Password) you have entered in your email setup for that account. Use the Email test button on the Tools Page. If you get an Authentication Error, proceed to enter your UserName and Password as described next.
Check the Use box and enter your User Name and Password. Now use the Email button on the Tools Page to verify proper operation.
FITS keyword information can be inserted into every .fit data file you take. The entries for Telescope, Instrument, Observer and Observatory correspond to the FITS keywords, TELESCOP, INSTRUME, OBSERVER and OBSERVAT respectively. For light frames, values wil be entered for read noise (RDNOISE) and gain (GAIN) based on the values entered on the Tools page for Read Noise and Gain respectively. For best results, you should either measure your camera's gain and read noise. Less optimally, you can enter the manufacturer's data for these parameters.
If Insert WCS is checked, WCS data will be written to the FITS header as well. This option is available only when PinPoint is selected for plate solving. Note that this will require additional time during a session as a plate solve will have to be made for each data frame and then added to the FITS data. For other than scientific purposes, this is best left unchecked. This option is disabled (grayed out) if Maxim Lossless Compression is checked since plate solving for inserting World Coordinate System data into the FITS header is not possible with compressed FITS data.
If Standard Keywords is checked, the FITS Keyword IMAGETYP will use professional for light frame, dark frame, bias frame and flat frame will be used - LIGHT, DARK, BIAS and Flat, respectively. If cleared, the SBIG standard will be used, Light Frame, Dark Frame, Bias Frame and Flat Field respectively. It is recommended that the Standard keywords be used.
The Optec Pyxis rotator can be put into a sleep mode between rotations by checking the Sleep Pyxis Between Rotations box. This reduces the power to the rotator. The downside is there may not be enough holding power to keep an off-center camera from rotating. If this is a problem, this box should not be checked.
This determines how frequently CCDAutoPilot should adjust the dome slit position to the telescope when using AutomaDome. (There is no need for any auxiliary VB script to maintain this alignment as CCCDAutoPilot does this internally.) Unless the dome slit is particularly narrow and/or the OTA aperture is particularly large, it is recommended that this be kept to 8 minutes or longer. If more frequent adjustments are desired, the dome/telescope system should be checked over an extended period of time (hours) to verify proper operation.
CCDAutoPilot uses the single line data facility of the Boltwood family of cloud sensors. With this facility, multiple observatories can share a common cloud sensor as long as it is networked to each observatory. Set up the cloud sensor to write the single line file. Use the file/path button to navigate to the location where this file is written. The remainder of the settings depend on whether a version I or version II cloud sensor is being used. The run abort condition is set if the cloud sensor reports very cloudy or rain.
Pause for cloud clearing (I & II): When checked, if clouds come in and the cloud sensor is not "very cloudy", the run will pause for the time specified waiting for the clouds to clear. If it clears before the specified time, the run will resume, if not the run abort condition will be set.
Stop Mount: When checked, mount tracking will be turned off while waiting for the clouds to clear.
Abort on Update Loss after xx sec: When checked, the run abort condition will be set if the cloud/weather system stops updating for the specified time. See the Cloud Sensor Notes.
The following are Professional Edition features only.
Abort at humidity greater than(II only): When checked, the run abort condition will be set if the humidity exceeds the specified level.
Abort at wind greater than (II only): When checked the run abort condition will be set if the wind speed exceeds the specified level
Abort at Cloud Sensor Failure: When checked, the run abort condition will be set if the cloud sensor head stops communicating with the base.
Run Abort Condition
Should any weather condition be set, CCDAutoPilot will attempt to perform the Shutdown steps on the Options page - turn off tracking, park the telescope, Set the Pyxis rotator position to 0 if used, close the dome and run the final application, whether these are checked or not. The camerqa cooler will not be warmed up in case dark frames are scheduled. A failure of any of these attempts will not impact subsequent steps.
Caution and Disclaimer
Both the Cloud Sensor documentation and common sense advise against relying on this device to protect valuable equipment. It is mainly intended as a monitor of sky conditions. See the Cloud Sensor documentation for details. CCDAutoPilot responds to changing sky conditions as a convenience to the user and in no way should be considered a fail safe approach. The most reliable usage, again without guarantees, is to have a direct connection between the Cloud Sensor and the dome control hardware emergency close switch with no intervening software. The dome controller should be on an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) to be able to close the dome in the event of a power failure.
None of this is any substitute for an attendant.
Control File (CCDAutoPilot Professional Feature)
Use the button to navigate to the name and location of the control file. See the Control File Editor topic for details on the file structure.
Use the button to navigate to the Flip-Flat control file, aacmd.exe. This was formerly ffcommand.exe. Use the appropriate .exe file that came with your Flip-Flat. The default location for this file is
C:\Program Files\Alnitak Astrosystems\Flip-Flat Controller.
If you have installed it somewhere else, please navigate to that location. See Flip-Flat Notes for more information.